Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obama’s “You Didn’t Build That” Gaffe

Obama’s now famous “You didn’t build that” comment, which seemed to denigrate entrepreneurs, has been the subject of much comment. Marquette theologian Mark Johnson recently published an analysis of the statement. It’s excruciatingly fair-minded (we would be inclined to simply say that Obama doesn’t like business), but ultimately comes down against the president.

A key passage:
In 2003 a young man named Anthony Casalena was at the University of Maryland with a desire to build a website for himself that could be easily updated—a “content management system” (CMS), the tech-phrase is. He grew weary of the paltry offerings out on the Internet and decided to develop his own website-creation software, from complete and total scratch. The result was a web-publishing platform he called ‘Squarespace,’ whose existence he quickly shared with people he knew. He got the sense that his idea “had legs,” and so he sought some financial help to make it possible for him to develop his idea full-time. He went to his father for a $30,000.00 loan, and was able to use the funds to purchase hardware and infrastructure from private companies. He ran the product on his own—he was “tech support.”

In November of 2004 I was looking around for some help in my personal project of creating a website devoted to the academic study of St. Thomas Aquinas. I had learned computer programming, and had myself started developing a platform for my website (thomistica.net), but found the going hard, time-consuming, and possibly costly; besides, I need to teach and research on Thomistic theology. So I searched the Internet and saw some glowing reports in various forums about a brand-new product called “Squarespace,” where one could get a free trial website, and instant customer support: the answer to my prayers. I loaded up some test content on the site, grew to love its easy interface for web-publishing, and was almost tearful in my gratitude for how quickly this young man, Anthony Casalena, would respond to my support queries. I decided that I was “all in” on this new platform, and purchased a subscription to it. Since then, for both for my academic baby (thomistica.net) and my personal site (markfjohnson.net), Squarespace has been my home. Anthony has built this thing from the absolute ground up. Over time he added two employees, moved from Maryland to Manhattan, NYC, and managed the company with such frugality that it has been profitable since the beginning (thanks to the investment of his intellectual power, his sweat, and his father’s money—whom he has paid back, I’ve heard tell, manifoldly). In order to share his vision and guarantee the quality of his product he recently raised some venture capital funding, and used the money to hire more employees. Squarespace is now ninety employees large.

So please forgive me if I suffer consternation at the President’s ambiguous “somebody else built that,” for I can think of at least one person who deserves the lion’s share of credit for in fact “having built it.” Tony Casalena. And he now has ninety-plus employees (i.e., tax-payers, and wealth-coproducers) who daily “build it,” too. It may “take a village,” but the village is populated with individual people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, who work hard each day to make their way.

So, sorry. Tony Casalena did build that, or it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The professor is a day late and a dollar short, per usual regarding this "controversy". But, as part of any partisan mouth machine, left or right, one must perpetuate the nonsense to enable it to remain in the American political consciousness. If it starts to die out like a fart in the wind, get out a blog post to maintain the stench of the "message".

Amazing how the intentional mischaracterization of Obama's remarks began rather innocuously.


Mind you, that Romney, within the context of his speech on the matter, but conveniently left out of his campaign commercials, essentially agree with Obama.

“There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entreprenuers and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that. That’s an important thing. A lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors. There’s no question your mom and dad. Your school teachers. The people that provide roads, the fire, and the police. A lot of people help.”


I get it, though. Just like liberals with their own "gotcha moments", conservatives are trying to manufacture enough outrage to get this “controversy” into the media and damage him in the election. It’s an effort to paint a narrative of him as anti-business in the minds of voters. It has nothing to do with what he meant or even if you believe the claims about what he said.

And leave it to a supposed learned man by the name of Professor Adams to buy it hook, line, and sinker. Then again, he just can't help his tribalism.

"But...but...but everyone knows where Obama stands on this issue. He can try to claim he didn’t say anything of the sort, but when contrasted with his words and actions over four years, it adds up."

I can just hear this statement uttered by our dear professor, yet I think deep down he knows the intent and context of Obama's remarks, but for him it’s fun and intellectually profitable to pretend otherwise.

Again, I get that the part of Obama's speech makes a great soundbite with which to get across your message he is hostile to business interests. But anyone who actually believes that he meant government gets to take the credit for the success of private enterprise, give me a break.

That’s why when any politician makes what the other side deems is a verbal gaffe, an “insult” to the poor or to racial groups, an “attack” on corporate America, etc. and then proceed to blow it out of proportion during a campaign, I just have to laugh at the idiocy of it all.

1:04 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...


Anybody who has been following what Obama has been saying knows what he meant.

He has consistently showed that he thinks that people who have earned a lot of money don't deserve to keep it, and that he thinks he has a right to take it.

It's been consistent: telling Joe the Plumber he wants to "spread the wealth around" or telling Charlie Gibson in a debate with Hillary that "fairness" requires a higher capital gains tax, even if it reduced government revenue.

2:27 PM  

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